Bug o’the Week – Abbott’s Sphinx Moth

Greetings BugFans,

BugFan Kine sent the BugLady some “what-is-it?” pictures of a few very hungry caterpillars on Virginia creeper, taken by her sister, Honorary BugFan Abett.  The BugLady had seen an adult Abbott’s sphinx moth, but she’s never seen this wonderful caterpillar (despite the fact that she had an out-building at her old house that was being engulfed by a mass of kudzu-like wild grape).  What a cool moth!

First of all, the family tree.  They are in the Sphinx moth family Sphingidae, a diverse bunch of 124 species in North America (1450 worldwide) that range from the clear-winged moths now gracing wild bergamot in the prairie https://bugguide.net/node/view/1451847/bgimage, to the elegant White-lined sphinx https://bugguide.net/node/view/1477718/bgimage, to the stunning, non-native Elephant sphinx https://bugguide.net/node/view/936759/bgimage, to lunkers like the Five-spotted Hawk moth https://bugguide.net/node/view/1891122/bgimage, whose caterpillar, the Tomato hornworm, is far better known than the adult. They are stocky moths, produced by stocky caterpillars (or vice versa).

Adult Sphinx/Hawk moths feed by hovering in front of a flower (like the hummingbirds that people mistake them for) and unfurling their long proboscis to reach down into it https://bugguide.net/node/view/1045011/bgimage.  Many add a behavior called “side slipping” or “swing-hovering,” in which they move from side to side while hovering; scientists think this helps them avoid predators that are lurking in the flowers.  They are important pollinators.

Sphinx moth caterpillars are called hornworms because of the horn they sport at their rear https://bugguide.net/node/view/1458120/bgimage, at least in their early days.  The horn is shed as the caterpillar matures (hard to tuck into a pupal case while wearing that), leaving it with a “button” on its rump in its last instar (an instar is the eating stage between molting stages).  Caterpillars of many species of sphinx moths feed on toxic leaves, and they either sequester the toxins in special organs within their bodies, or they are able to excrete them quickly.

The ABBOTT’S SPHINX (Sphecodina abbottii) is found in fields, woodlands, and woodland edges from the Great Plains to the Atlantic.  It has a wingspan of two to almost three inches, and its caterpillar may grow even longer.  The adult’s brindle patterning allows it to blend into tree bark https://bugguide.net/node/view/1462455/bgimage, and the scales on the upturned tip of its abdomen resemble a broken twig https://bugguide.net/node/view/55214/bgimage.  The BugLady usually routes people to bugguide.net for pictures, but – Wow – look at this spectacular shot http://ottawa.moths.ca/sphingidae/pages/07870-sphecodina-abbottii-A.html!

Abbott’s sphinxes are bumble bee mimics, even buzzing as they feed.  Jim Sogaard, in Moths and Caterpillars of the North Woods, tells us that they get nutrients from “flowers, mud, dung, carrion, and tree sap flows.”

The caterpillar starts out green, with a small horn https://bugguide.net/node/view/422561/bgimage and then becomes icy green with an orange knob https://bugguide.net/node/view/1325390/bgimage.  Later it turns either a mottled brown https://bugguide.net/node/view/954255/bgimage, which matches the woody vines of its food plants (wild grape, Virginia Creeper, and porcelainberry), or rust with green “saddles” across its back https://bugguide.net/node/view/1486385/bgimage that are said to look like a bunch of grapes.  According to Sogaard, the “brown form feeds at night, resting on the woody vines during the day.  The green form feeds by day and night, resting closer to the foliage.”

The horn eventually disappears, replaced by a dark knob that looks startlingly like a vertebrate’s eye https://bugguide.net/node/view/954257/bgimage, the Abbott Sphinx’s nod to the snake-head defense.

If a caterpillar is disturbed, it writhes around and tries to bite its tormentor.  In his blog The Backyard Anthropology Project, Tim Eisele describes holding a caterpillar, “Handling it was a bit disturbing. Imagine picking up a raw sausage, and then having it suddenly thrash violently from side to side……”  In a different blog post he says that “In addition to pretending to be a snake, it also lashed back and forth fairly violently when handled, while making kind of a “bbbrrrttt” sound by shooting air out of its breathing spiracles.

They overwinter as pupae https://bugguide.net/node/view/958421/bgimage in underground cells.  There are two generations per year in the south and only one here in God’s Country, where the adults fly in June and July.

Who was Abbott?  John Abbott (1751 – 1840) (you can find it spelled with one or two “t’s”) was a London-born naturalist who came to America in 1773.  He was a gifted artist who specialized in insects, illustrating them in all life stages.  Along with 3,000 detailed paintings of insects https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Abbot_(entomologist)#/media/File:Abbotv1tab01AA.jpghttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Abbot_(entomologist)#/media/File:AbbotV1Tab02A.jpg, he also drew plants and birds.  According to an article in the New Georgia Encyclopedia, “Abbot’s meticulous illustrations and careful writing chronicle the habitats, life cycles, behaviors, and migratory patterns of numerous species. He also advances theories concerning the relationship between predator and prey. His work enabled others to classify closely related species, several of which were named according to Linnaean classification from Abbot’s specimens and drawings. Naturalist and evolutionary theorist Charles Darwin studied Abbot’s work prior to his own exploration of the New World.”

Kate Redmond, The BugLady

Bug of the Week archives:

Thankful Thursday: Exciting Endangered Bee Species Discovery at Riveredge

Happy Thankful Thursday!

This Thankful Thursday, we’re connecting the dots between donors who fund conservation research and a Federally Endangered species…discovered onsite at Riveredge!

In recent years, the William R. and Charlotte S. Johnson Fund has supported research and conservation interns at Riveredge. Char, as we knew her, was one of the founders of Riveredge Nature Center and their donations have afforded us the capacity to provide college students and recent graduates with work experience in the field.

One of our interns this year is Caleb, a student at Concordia University Wisconsin, and his focus has been on researching insects in the prairie. In the past couple of weeks, with dogged focus, documentation, and follow-up research, Caleb confirmed with this photograph the existence of the elusive Rusty Patched Bumble Bee (Bombus affinis) at Riveredge.

For years, we’ve fostered habitat for this Federally Endangered species, hoping that we would one day be able to confirm its presence here. Thanks to the support of the William R. and Charlotte S. Johnson Fund, and the determination of the interns they’ve empowered us to employ, we’re pleased to announce that Riveredge is indeed a home for the Federally Endangered Rusty Patched Bumble Bee!

Char’s legacy lives on through the wonderful creatures, abundant and uncommon alike, that know these acres along the Milwaukee River as their sanctuary. Thank you!

Bug o’the Week – Prince Baskettail Dragonfly

Greetings, BugFans,

The BugLady finds this wonderful dragonfly cruising tirelessly over cattails at the edges of lakes or patrolling long stretches of the Milwaukee River about six feet above the surface.  She takes a lot of Hail Mary shots, and this is the best she’s done (so far).

Like their smaller cousins (Beaverpond, Spiny, and Common Baskettails), Prince Baskettails are in the Emerald family Corduliidae and the genus Epitheca (from the Greek “epi “above, upon” and theca “pouch, basket, receptacle.”  Unlike other odonates, which oviposit by inserting an egg into a slit they cut in vegetation or by tapping the water with their abdomen to release the eggs within, baskettails large and small fly around with a clump of eggs at the tip of their abdomen.  These they drop into the water, either all at once, or by flying inches above the surface, dragging and snagging the egg mass on aquatic vegetation.  The glob of eggs reacts like those kids’ toys that instruct “Just add water;” the strand swells and uncoils, and it may reach 20” long and enclose as many as 1,000 eggs.

While the other baskettails measure about 2” or less, the Prince Baskettail (Epitheca princeps) is 2 ¼” to 3 ¼” long (darner-sized) – the largest baskettail and the largest member of its family.  It’s slim-bodied, with three dark spots on each wing (some, especially in the South, are larger and spottier https://bugguide.net/node/view/1351143/bgimage https://bugguide.net/node/view/1078959/bgimage).  Mature males have the bright green eyes that are characteristic of their family https://bugguide.net/node/view/398259/bgimage.  The only dragonfly you might confuse it with is the female Twelve-spotted Skimmer, which is shorter and has a heavier body and a pale line running along each side of its abdomen https://bugguide.net/node/view/1959162/bgimage.

Adults prey on small, flying insects, often hunting for mayflies high above the trees, and they may form feeding swarms at the end of the day.  Though they are large and feisty, they are not quite at the top of the food chain – here’s a Dragonhunter with a Prince Baskettail https://www.uwgb.edu/biodiversity/econotes/2007/dragonhunter.htm.  The large https://bugguide.net/node/view/935963/bgimage and spiny naiads (immatures) nab underwater critters with their extendable mouthparts.

Male Prince Baskettails patrol a large territory, as do some females when they’re looking for a place to oviposit.  Naiads hatch in a few weeks, using a hard bump on their heads to break out of the egg.  They may live in the water for a year or two before emerging, spending their final winter as naiads in deep water where temperatures are more constant.  The half-hour that it takes for them to emerge from the water, pull out of their exoskeleton, and lengthen and harden their wings for flight is a dangerous one, and one source said that only 1% of the naiads achieve adulthood.

Here’s a series of pictures of a Prince Baskettail emerging – https://bugguide.net/node/view/457838/bgimage and a picture of the exuvia (shed skin) https://bugguide.net/node/view/1442425/bgimage.

They rarely perch, and when they do, they hang vertically from a twig, and they often curve their abdomen https://bugguide.net/node/view/1675349/bgimage). The BugLady has never seen a perched Prince Baskettail (unless, of course, she glanced at one and dismissed it as a Twelve-spotted Skimmer), but she read that they are more likely to be perched on cloudy days.

On another topic completely, the BugLady is offering this without comment.  There is a similar movement in the bird world https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/these-moths-will-be-renamed-stop-use-ethnic-slur-180978151/?utm_source=smithsoniandaily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20210712-daily-responsive&spMailingID=45289685&spUserID=ODg4Mzc3MzY0MTUyS0&spJobID=2043035771&spReportId=MjA0MzAzNTc3MQS2.  Who says we don’t do cutting-edge entomology here!

Kate Redmond, The BugLady

Bug of the Week archives:

Three Festivals Unite to Celebrate Milwaukee’s Rivers: 2021 Sturgeon Fest News


It’s time to celebrate the return of Milwaukee’s rivers with three organizations committed to their restoration! On Sunday, September 19 2021, Harbor District’s annual street festival Harbor Fest will expand, combining the celebration of Milwaukee’s harbor with the Milwaukee Riverkeeper Boat Parade and Sturgeon Fest by Riveredge Nature Center.

Harbor Fest celebrates all things fish, water, and boats. Attendees can expect food and drink, live music by Caché, art, a fish petting zoo, activities for families like learning how to clean a fish, shopping from local makers, and information and goodies from our business tent featuring Milwaukee’s Harbor District businesses.

In the spirit of collaboration that guides environmental groups in Southeast Wisconsin, we are delighted to partner up with Riveredge and Milwaukee Riverkeeper – two groups that really know how to celebrate water and will make Harbor Fest better than ever,” said Lilith Fowler, Executive Director of Harbor District, Inc. “And, we can’t wait to bring people back to the waterfront and share new plans and progress from the past year.” This will be the Harbor District’s fifth annual Harbor Fest. In 2019, over 3,200 people came to Milwaukee’s Harbor to celebrate the rich history and culture of this special area of Milwaukee.

Picture of 2019 Harbor Fest from the School of Freshwater Sciences. Photo Courtesy Harbor District.

Sunday, September 19 Schedule of Events

Harbor Fest starts at 11:00am and also encompasses Sturgeon Fest and Milwaukee Riverkeeper Boat Parade 

11:00am Harbor Fest Begins

12:00pm Sturgeon Blessing and fish release begins at Harbor View Plaza

12:30pm Milwaukee Riverkeeper Boat Parade begins at Harbor View Plaza

4:00pm Harbor Fest completes

A boat in the 2019 Milwaukee Riverkeeper Boat Parade. Photo courtesy Milwaukee Riverkeeper.

The Milwaukee Boat Parade is a twist on the traditional holiday parade featuring floats – that actually float! Local artists, groups and performers are commissioned to create installations celebrating the return of Milwaukee’s rivers. Watch it LIVE from Harborfest, or find a spot anywhere along the riverwalk to take in this unique sight.

This year, Harbor Fest attendees will have the opportunity to release a Lake Sturgeon as a part of the 15th year of the Return the Sturgeon Program. Event attendees can pre-register to hand-release Lake Sturgeon into the water, or donate the opportunity for others to have the experience on the Sturgeon Fest website.  Sturgeon Fest has previously taken place at Lakeshore State Park and for 2021 Riveredge is trying out a new location with Harbor Fest.

“For 15 years Riveredge has partnered with the Wisconsin DNR to raise Lake Sturgeon and welcome the community to hand release this species back into the Milwaukee River and Lake Michigan during Sturgeon Fest,” said Jessica Jens, Riveredge Executive Director. “I greatly appreciate our downstream partnerships with Harbor District and Milwaukee Riverkeeper in welcoming us to be a part of Harbor Fest this year.”

The Return the Sturgeon program is a collaboration between the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Riveredge Nature Center. Since the mid-1800’s, Lake Sturgeon populations throughout the Great Lakes have been decimated between overfishing, collection of their eggs as caviar, and dams blocking their ability to return to spawning habitat (Lake Sturgeon will only spawn in the river in which they were born). The Return the Sturgeon restoration effort imprints a new population of Lake Sturgeon on Milwaukee River water. This effort reclaims the habitat range of this prehistoric fish species and returns a spawning sturgeon population to the Milwaukee River for the first time in more than 100 years.

As Milwaukee Riverkeeper heralds the resurgent return of Milwaukee’s rivers, Milwaukee also welcomes the return of Lake Sturgeon to our rivers.

“So much work has gone into restoring Milwaukee’s rivers. We are seeing a renaissance happening, people are returning to the water to find community and share joy after a long time apart. The Milwaukee Riverkeeper Boat Parade is a celebration of our collective connections to water. We see this as another opportunity to bring people together and down to our rivers,” said Jennifer Bolger Breceda, Executive Director of Milwaukee Riverkeeper.

Harbor Fest takes place outside of the UW-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences at 600 E. Greenfield Ave. Greenfield Avenue will be closed at Barclay Street to make way for the festival and pedestrian traffic. Attendees are encouraged to ride bikes to the event. An event schedule and map, including the location of free event parking hosted by Rockwell Automation, will be available leading up to the festival at Harbor Fest – Milwaukee.

Bug o’the Week – Red-blue Checkered beetle

Greetings, BugFans,

The BugLady is always amazed at how masses of Coreopsis flowers paint the Riveredge prairies gold in June, and she’s equally amazed at how few of them are entertaining insects.  The books say that that Coreopsis is visited by a number of small, native bees, plus some butterflies and beetles, but she rarely sees much action on the flowers (sometimes a camouflaged crab spider waiting for incoming pollinators).  Which is why this Red-blue checkered beetle was a pleasant (and colorful) surprise.

Fun facts about Coreopsis:

  • Members of some Great Plains tribes boiled Coreopsis flowers for a few minutes to make a beverage that was red.  Pregnant women in one tribe drank a tea made from Coreopsis plants to increase their chances of bearing a girl child.

Checkered beetles are in the family Cleridae.  We visited the Clerids seven years ago in the form of a cute little beetle that the BugLady found on a wild sunflower – see that episode for general info about the family https://uwm.edu/field-station/checkered-beetle/.  There are about 300 species of Checkered beetles in North America; many are colorful, and they lead diverse lifestyles, and some are biological controls of bark beetles.


Red-blue Checkered beetles (Trichodes nuttalli) (aka Nuttall’s shaggy beetle) are found east-of-the-Rockies https://bugguide.net/node/view/3405/data in grasslands and edges.  They’re about 1/3” long, and in Beetles of Eastern North America, Evans describes them as elongate, robust, sparsely clothed in light-colored setae, metallic blue or green, antennae and mouthparts brown, and bicolored elytra” https://bugguide.net/node/view/213154/bgimage and https://bugguide.net/node/view/1105035/bgimage.

One of the really basic questions we can ask about an insect (or any animal) is “What does it eat?”  On this subject, the reports on the RBCB are contradictory.  Reputable sources say that the adults eat pollen from a variety of grassland, edge, and wetland flowers and are not predaceous – or that they feed on pollen and on small insects they find on the flower tops.  Yes, the larvae are carnivores.  But – do they feed only on the eggs and nymphs of the Sprinkled grasshopper https://bugguide.net/node/view/619072/bgimage, as some scholarly publications attest?  Or, as other, equally scholarly sources say, do RBCB eggs stick to foraging bees and wasps and get taken back to their nests, where they hatch and feed on the bee larvae in the nest (and maybe on cached pollen, too)?  Or do the eggs hatch on the flower and the larvae grab hold and ride back to wasp and bee nests?  As several authors noted – this species needs more study.

RBCBs are beetles of early summer.  Eggs are laid on flowers where the adults feed (or, if you’re in the Grasshopper Camp, in crevices on the ground).  The larvae may overwinter as larvae, pupae, or pre-pupae.

Fun Facts about RBCBs:

  • If you need a (dead) RBCB for your collection, several online stores will sell you one for about $3.00.

  • According to the journal Biophilately, the RBCB was one of four insects illustrated in a block of “Garden Insects” stamps issued in the Seychelles in 2014.

Author Jeff Mitton poses some interesting questions about RBCBs in his article in the Colorado Arts and Sciences Magazine https://www.colorado.edu/asmagazine-archive/node/1017.  First of all, considering its coloration [and its daytime feeding habits], it’s logical that the beetle enjoys some chemical defenses, but there’s no information Yea or Nay.

Second, this beetle a pretty much of a generalist, both in the variety of flowers the adults feed on and in the variety of hymenopterans the eggs/larvae hitchhike on.  But [and Mitton is in the Bees and Wasps Camp] it’s one of a number of insects whose continued existence depends on the behavior of another insect – in this case, the bee that unwittingly carries it home.  It’s a big gamble.  He suggests that if its hosts became more fastid13 – red-blue checkered beetle13ious and groomed the beetle eggs/larvae off their bodies, or if they were able to recognize the larvae in the hive and dispose of them, or if the hosts became extinct, the beetle would soon be on the road to extinction itself.

Speaking of beetles and “extinct,” here’s an interesting blog post on ladybugs (thanks to BugFan Molly) – https://prairieecologist.com/2021/06/19/losing-ladybugs/.  Be sure to click on the “Ladybugs of South Dakota” poster.

Kate Redmond, The BugLady

Riveredge Nature Center improves trails and conserves orchids with National Resources Foundation of Wisconsin Quiet Trails Fund Grant

New, water permeable accessible trail now winds from both the prairie and the parking lot to meet the existing stair network (seen on the right).

Riveredge Nature Center is pleased to have received the National Resources Foundation of Wisconsin Quiet Trails Fund Grant to both improve trails to welcome a wider range of people to explore the trails, and to protect sensitive floral habitat from deer over-browsing. Through a partnership with Access Ability Wisconsin, Riveredge has become the host site for an all terrain wheelchair that can be used both at Riveredge and anywhere offsite.

This trail now winds through Riveredge’s oldest restored prairie.

With this greater consideration, Riveredge has been re-imagining trails to better accommodate wheelchairs, strollers, and people who might be experiencing limited mobility or other sensory challenges. The National Resources Foundation of Wisconsin Quiet Trails Grant empowered Riveredge to recreate a trail through our oldest restored prairie with a gradual slope to accommodate more trail users.

Fencing now protecting vulnerable orchid habitat from White-tailed Deer.

Additionally, as a nature center housing The Riveredge School, the first nature-based public charter elementary school in the region, Riveredge flora has seen issues with deer over-browsing sensitive habitats due to a lack of predation (human or otherwise). This includes a population of rare and sensitive native orchids, which are a favorite to White-tailed Deer.

Lesser Yellow Lady’s slipper orchids successfully conserved and blooming at Riveredge.

Riveredge has partnered to bolster native orchid habitat throughout the region, however, locally, deer remain a challenge. Through the Quiet Trails Grant, Riveredge was able to establish fencing around these sensitive habitats, minimizing browse by deer in these areas and protecting populations of Lesser Yellow Lady’s-slipper, a Wisconsin Species of Special Concern.
Thank you to National Resources Foundation of Wisconsin and to all of our volunteers, partners, members and friends dedicated to conserving and improving the experience for all at Riveredge!

Accessible trails at Riveredge, and elsewhere, benefit everyone.

How Winter Work Creates a Summer Landscape at Riveredge

Winter forestry efforts create a healthier summer landscape.

As someone working in the conservation field, people might assume I spend my days planting trees, watering new seedlings, telling gentle sweet nothings to budding prairie flowers, and sowing seed as I walk. And while I do those things as well, much of my days are spent collecting data on the plants and animals we manage, educating others, developing long-term restoration plans reciprocal to the capacity for a tree to live a long life, and creating disturbances as many of the species that reside here need disturbance to thrive. It is this disturbance that can be hard to pallet or understand why you might cut something or burn something to help.

It can be initially a strange feeling how conservation can manifest in acts that are reductive, however, in order to build a stronger house, you sometimes have to knock some things down.

The spartan February forest and prairie beyond at Riveredge.

Felling trees might seem anathema to a healthy forest, but in terms of what trees offer to the surrounding ecosystem, all trees are not equal in every situation. The work we engage in throughout the winter is an excellent example. Volunteers who help in these efforts are invaluable, and I invite you to join us in conserving and restoring the rolling prairie hills and strong oak edges of Riveredge.

In nature, oak trees are like a grocery store. Some oaks can live to be hundreds of years old and provide a remarkable abundance of sustenance to migratory and resident birds, a bevy of insects, and literally hundreds of other species. Some oak species have such a positive effect on the surrounding wildlife that their effect almost seems disproportionate. Additionally, oaks are the framework of our imperiled fire dependent savanna and woodland ecosystems.

Newly sparse surroundings will allow this oak to stretch out in summertime.

In this forest, we’re seeing Sugar Maples encroaching into a previously more open oak woodland. Sugar Maples, while a treasured species near and dear to us at Riveredge, are in direct opposition to the success of an oak savanna or woodland. Maples grow much faster and quickly out-compete oaks. In the absence of fire and with an overabundance of White-tailed Deer, maples have a competitive advantage.

Territories are continually changing in forests between older, slower growth fire tolerant species and faster growing, less fire tolerant trees. At present, some of these tall and slim Sugar Maples, a fraction of the diameter of the oaks, are winning the race to canopy sunlight. In this location, we’ve “daylighted” or opened up the landscape for oaks to stretch out and breathe. In an effort to provide more space for oaks to have a greater positive influence on the surrounding environment, we’re trimming back these Sugar Maples.

The result: an oak tree with plenty of space to leaf out and flourish.

The good news is that all of these trees will go on to be valuable – either to us humans or to countless forest species. For our part, we’ll use some of these logs for construction lumber and others for logs on which to grow shiitake mushrooms. In the following decades, logs that remain in the forest will provide valuable habitat for birds, salamanders, fungi, flowers, insects and other species.

By thinning the forest canopy at these locations, and all that apply, we approach our work with the spirit that nothing in nature is ever wasted, and apply our efforts earnestly with a 200-year mindset.

An oak with sky surrounding its branches can be a healthier oak.

Written by Matt Smith, Riveredge Land Manager


Cabela’s #OutdoorFund Supports Riveredge Nature Center with $2,500 Award

Having partners supporting Riveredge Nature Center is what really makes Riveredge able to flourish and host so many successful programs throughout our various communities. We’re pleased to announce that Cabela’s #OutdoorFund has granted Riveredge Nature Center with $2,500 of equipment to support our youth and family programming!

At Riveredge, we believe that to inspire a love of nature and a passion for protecting it, we must first welcome people to enjoy and become curious about the prairies and forests and inhabitants of the Milwaukee River. In order to make that happen, we host innumerable summer camps, outreach programs, onsite programs, and gatherings for the Community Rivers Program. The following gifts from Cabela’s will help support our youth and family programming to inspire the next generations of exploring conservationists.

Fishing poles sized for very young anglers. We use poles mostly from April to October in family fishing programs, community rivers program outreach fishing days in Grafton, Saukville, Newburg, Fredonia & Kewaskum, and during our summer camps onsite.

Tents that fit 3-5 people are an asset to our Summer Camp program. We utilize them onsite for younger campers when they stay overnight as well as off site on trips to Devil’s Lake, The Boundary Waters, and Pictured rocks for our Teen Campers.

Students of The Riveredge School fishing on the last day of classes in 2021.

Pop-up changing shelters Heron Pond for campers to change in and out of suits before hiking 1-1.5 miles back to the camp classrooms/spaces. We also utilize these in the winter indoors- in our classrooms for students who need to change clothes after an especially wet day of playing/learning near the pond or in the snow!

Trail Cameras for wildlife monitoring of specific species/particular habitats that have sensitive plant ecosystems we closely study for phenology and habits. These are used most often with the research/conservation dept, but we do utilize them from time to time for summer camp and homeschool programming.

Thank you to #Cabela’s Outdoor Fund for supporting Riveredge and youth and family outdoor education throughout our community!

Exploring Riveredge: “Prescription Strength RX for Everyone”

Over the years, Riveredge has been a home to various communities. From a range of artistic creators, to the memory loss community, to the homeschool and neurodiverse communities, we strive to stretch the definition of who explores the outdoors. In the past year, we’ve overall been working to welcome people who, historically, haven’t spent much time at Riveredge.

Riveredge has recently become more acquainted with the Hispanic community that encompasses more than 6,000 people throughout Ozaukee and Washington counties. Children within these families are often bilingual, speaking Spanish in the home and English at school. All generations in the home may not necessarily be English speakers, however, and organizations such as Casa Guadalupe work to bridge this gap.

We became aware fairly recently of this fact by way of Riveredge member and 2019-20 Riveredge School Governance Council member, Cecilia Guajardo. Cecilia and her family moved from her native Mexico to begin living in Ozaukee County about 10 years ago with her husband’s workplace relocation. Since then, when not parenting, working, or working in the home, Cecilia has spent her time exploring outdoors throughout Wisconsin’s various seasons.

She first visited Riveredge as a field trip chaperone with her daughter’s Thorson Elementary School class. “We walked into the river with waders and it was such an incredible experience!” said Cecilia. “We became members that day and we’ve been Riveredge members ever since.”

“That’s part of what I love being outdoors.

Nobody needs a translator to enjoy nature.”

In one of her many community roles, Cecilia works with Casa Guadalupe, a West Bend organization that works to be the bridge of integration to Hispanics and to the communities in which they live through education and community access.

Cecilia has spent the pandemic outdoors, exploring Riveredge trails daily. “Coming from a sunny climate I like to call it Nature RX – prescription strength nature,” she smiles. “Nature is the best antidepressant I’ve found.” With so many various business closures, she started wondering if extended family health in the Casa community might be suffering throughout the pandemic.


A little bit of blooming Coreopsis is part of nature’s prescription strength RX.

Riveredge and Casa Guadalupe have started a partnership welcoming Casa families who are a part of the Read to Succeed program to explore Riveredge with family memberships. Cecilia graciously translated Riveredge membership materials into Spanish so that all generations could read the text. Our shared hope is to provide healthy outdoor options to Casa families while also welcoming people who might not otherwise explore these 10 miles of trails along the Milwaukee River.

Cecilia realizes that diversity in the outdoors might be new for some. “It’s funny, sometimes, how people respond when they hear an accent different from their own in the outdoors,” said Cecilia. “People sometimes give me that look of surprise, that they didn’t expect to hear my voice out on a trail. But I hike here so much I’m often helping people figure out where they are on their map,” she laughs. “I am the person who moved here and sometimes giving directions to people from this area. That’s part of what I love being outdoors. Nobody needs a translator to enjoy nature.”

Bug o’the Week – Insects and Plants

Greetings, BugFans,

There’s a “chicken-or-the-egg” question about pollinators – do pollinators adapt to the flowers they visit, or do flowers adapt to their pollinators?  Yes, pollinators do visit flowers that are a good fit for their various feeding apparatuses, but in an effort to extract nectar from tricky places, insects adapt and specialize https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZhRuo1CPq8.

Despite the popularity of wild orchids and all of the time that is spent looking at and photographing them, the pollinators for many species aren’t known.  Some of our native orchids produce pollen but no nectar, and newly-emerged, “naïve bumble bees” are listed as pollinators for several of these.  “Naïve” because they are attracted by scent or color to a nectar-less flower, and as they look (unsuccessfully) for a food reward, they inadvertently pick up masses of pollen.  After getting the same results at a few more flowers they wise up and (no longer naïve) look for nectar elsewhere.  In the meantime, some flowers get pollinated.

The “upper lip” of the Calopogon/Grass pink orchid has filaments on it that look like they might carry some pollen (a “pseudopollen lure”).   When a naïve bee lands on it, the bee’s weight causes the structure to bend forward, planting the bee on its back on the pollen-producing structure.  Mission accomplished – until the bee stops playing.  Darwin wrote a book about the ways that orchids trick insects into visiting them.

Insect-flower relationships are a gigantic topic.  Here are just a few of the intricate ways that plants and insects interact:

The BugLady mentioned recently that bumble bees can sense when a flower’s pollen has been raided by another insect.  This research shows that at least one of the evening primroses can sense the bee and produce sweeter nectar when pollinators are near.  If the whole article is TMI, then you can get the gist of it from the abstract.  https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ele.13331?fbclid=IwAR23dBgR01xIOEyywLxgh0pGbXl5q59iNquJq3jhnpTYJjPzINXS17enHjk.

How do you avoid being harmed by a plant’s defensive chemicals?  By being a plant, of course – or a chimera. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smartnews-science/insect-has-plant-dna-its-genome-180977366/?utm_source=&utm_medium=&utm_campaign=&spMailingID=44717298&spUserID=ODg4Mzc3MzY0MTUyS0&spJobID=1962608328&spReportId=MTk2MjYwODMyOAS2

And a pretty unique, X-rated way that one orchid attracts beetles https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/extremely-rare-orchid-tricks-horny-beetles-carrying-its-pollen-180977332/?utm_source=smithsoniandaily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20210325-daily-responsive&spMailingID=44689191&spUserID=ODg4Mzc3MzY0MTUyS0&spJobID=1962163522&spReportId=MTk2MjE2MzUyMgS2.

And finally (speaking of orchids), we all gotta eat.  Pollinators make dandy prey, and smart predators hang around flowers.  Here’s one of the best predators ever! https://www.sciencefriday.com/articles/unraveling-the-orchid-mantis-mystery/.

Go outside – look at insects and flowers!

Kate Redmond, The BugLady